‘It could even be me one day’: Day Njovana opens up about his job as John Howard Centre’s head nurse
PUBLISHED: 15:55 08 February 2017 | UPDATED: 16:01 08 February 2017
Day Njovana tells Emma Bartholomew why his job rehabilitating patients at the John Howard Centre gets him up every morning
"It’s about holding onto hope for people until they can take it back. When you see someone getting better it’s euphoric"
Some of us might find it hard to cope if tasked with the job of caring for some of the most mentally ill in our society. But Day Njovana wouldn’t change his job for the world.
The head nurse at the John Howard Centre medium secure unit in Kenworthy Road, Homerton, helps people recover from mental illness crises like schizophrenia and depression. Some of his patients have been through the criminal system.
“You have to be extremely calm and contained,” Day, 37, tells the Gazette.
“When a young man comes in to our service and they are extremely unwell, and they can’t care for themselves, it’s about holding onto hope for people until they can take it back. After six months to a year when you see someone moving out of the service it’s euphoric.”
Day was born in Zimbabwe, the third of four siblings. He was sent to a boys’ boarding school from the age of six. On completing his A-levels he moved to London to be with his mother and started nursing training – a natural choice for him.
“When I was growing up I was always the one caring for people, who listened, and understood,” he said.
“It’s the appreciation of people’s struggles.
“In boarding school you become the mother hen. Men don’t talk, but you were always the one who listens and notices something might be wrong or needs to be spoken about.”
The most difficult part of his job is seeing patients progress, but then becoming ill again and re-entering the service.
“Knowing it’s a person with a life and relatives, who is away from them for a period of time, is really difficult,” he said.
“The aim is always to get them back to their families.
“We work through engaging therapeutically with patients, talking about some of the things they struggle with, and ensuring we are being positive in interactions.”
And he added: “If I ever lose that bit where I feel I don’t have a purpose, and there’s a drive to wake up every morning, this might not be the job for me.
“Mental health is always a difficult thing to work with. But one thing I always think is: it could be me one day.”
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